I’m NOT a mama bear. I am a mom. I love my daughter with everything in me. I do not desire for my child to experience heartache, hurt, or discomfort and I parent her to be wise to avoid such things. But I know that the world she lives in will be hurtful to her. It’s part of her opportunity to learn and grow. When other moms describe this lash out protection that comes at the expense of anybody that challenges their kids’ self-esteem or comfort, I simply don’t get it. I not only don’t get on board with this perspective, I find it to be the opposite of how I desire to respond. I’ve only told one person that I felt this way, because I assumed it was wrong. Wrong, because in a culture that promotes elevating my child’s value above everyone else’s, it equated with a lack of love. I must not love my kid as much as all the mama bears. So I kept it to myself.
I’ve realized, however, that to orchestrate situations, encounters, and relationships in our children’s lives that are only pleasant and positive and comfortable is to stunt the growth of their character. It is to lead our children to expect that all other people are to behave perfectly in their presence. It is to model a lack of patience, compassion, and self-control that I believe perpetuates the very problem being addressed. If we rescue our kids from these situations, it leaves no room for them to learn the character qualities that are most needed for healthy adult relationships. If I speak poorly about the the burned-out teacher or the referee who makes a bad call, I’m teaching her nothing about empathy or grace. When a peer is mean, insensitive, or hurtful to my kid, I don’t want to rescue her from knowing how to love others when it’s difficult. I want her to learn how to do just that. I don’t want to jerk my child away from the pain of hurtful people who are actually just hurting people that she can learn how to love in ways that might make a difference. If she never experiences these relationships and hurts as a child in childlike circumstances because I’m constantly removing her from them, then she simply never learns how to love well as an adult. I believe my role is to help her learn how to do that, not rescue her from the discomfort of it.
So when another mom verbally elevates her child in the presence of mine and therefore makes mine feel small, I don’t want to get angry at that parent. Instead, I want to teach my daughter about where true security and strength come from. I want my kid to see that sharing her resume of accomplishments is not necessary to be loved by others. I have no desire to jump into the boxing ring with another woman to prove to my daughter that love looks like winning on her behalf. I want her to be clear that love looks like inclusion, especially in discord or disagreement, on behalf of all. I want her to know that I will protect her, but I will do so while teaching her that to interact with a hurtful person by adding hurt is not protecting anybody. I want her to know that she matters as much as anybody, but not more so. Even those who attempt to discount her value, because I want her to know that their words and deeds say more about them than they will ever say about her. I want her to know that often it is those who are hurtful that need to know the grace of unconditional, non-competitive love in a world that tends to fight for every scrap of value we can find. And I want her to know that she can be a person who helps them find it, not one that takes it away so that she can feel better about herself.
If I can teach my daughter how to obtain and maintain peace, strength, esteem, confidence, and love no matter the actions or words of other people, I have empowered her far beyond rescuing her from an uncomfortable or hurtful encounter with another human heart. I am giving her the opportunity to get her esteem, value, and confidence from something much more secure than the actions of others. I am teaching her under my protection and guidance how to stand up for herself, problem solve, and strengthen her character by considering how to best love others no matter how they are behaving, talking, living, or treating her. I’m setting out the expectation that she take responsibility for her own behavior and not blame others for it, but I’m also leading her to the belief that she doesn’t have to be triggered by the behavior of others. As I understand it, that’s my role as her mom because that is what prepares her to be a healthier adult in a hurting world. I don’t want to rescue her from the opportunity to learn how to extend grace, cultivate love, exercise patience, live in her own strength, and love people well; I just don’t.